“We live sick and die quick.” This was how a man attending the third obesity town hall in Jackson, MS described the loss of his grandmother, mother, aunt and several other relatives to obesity-related diseases, all when they were in their 50s.
Reinforcing the reality that obesity is at epidemic levels in Mississippi – the US News & World Report places Mississippi as number five among the states with the highest rates of obesity – the town hall brought approximately 100 local church goers and local community leaders to the New Horizon Church International for a frank discussion with four prominent state obesity and chronic disease experts about the factors contributing to almost 40 percent of Mississippians having obesity. Called “social determinants of health,” these factors include race, education, economic status, having health insurance, and one’s zip code.
Along with these factors, the experts addressed the lack of evidence-based information for the public on obesity as a disease and the reluctance of many Mississippians to talk to their health providers about obesity, which is made worse by a serious shortage of primary care physicians and dietitians in the state. The panel discussion was moderated by Barbara Broadwater, Executive Director of the Mississippi Against Obesity Foundation and featured Faith Cotton, MD, a physician at the Mallory Community Health Center; Amanda Rice, MD, CEO of the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center; Kimberly Smash, MD, a family medicine specialist who founded the Prolific Health and Wellness practice; and Kyskie Bolton, MSCHN, RD, a registered dietitian at the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center.